Tag Archives: lifesyle

Getting My Feet Wet

This blog has been quiet for a while as I’ve been working out a new plan for my life and major pieces of the have only become connected very recently. I am set and excited to leave Minneapolis for Northern Italy – a place I have never been, to begin several months of travel in Europe. I don’t know if this is a low-stakes first step in a transition to moving away from the USA or it is just an opportunity to take a break from U.S. culture and experience life somewhere else. I don’t actually have a set end date to the trip and feel very open to new possibilities.

Before departing in five weeks I must get rid of most of my belongings, get health insurance and settle other long term visitor concerns, make sure to spend meaningful time with my family and friends and tie everything up at my current job. Time had been passing quickly ever since I bought by ticket and this last month is sure to fly by.

Feeling both sad and excited, I made the decision because of the support of so many encouraging friends, close family, buddies from sport and volunteering and other people I have just somehow come to know. Traveling and going new places can be difficult but the hardest part is always returning deeply changed, older, jobless (not valued in my culture) and maybe feeling critical of your own society after being exposed to other ways of thinking. It’s as much work to return “home” after a long time away as it is embarking on a new journey. If I didn’t think I had the support to return I may not have been able to take this chance to leave.  Whenever I come back I know I can integrate back into my old circles.

Travel and migration isn’t glamorous. It’s just a fact of life and very human and it’s absolutely necessary in a global world. While away I will be posting regularly about places visited and experiences. I want to share how it really feels to be somewhere new.  Watch out for frequent updates. I am curious to know what has been helpful for others that have successfully navigated similar life changes.



Traveling with an Anxiety Diagnosis

There are some things I’ve missed out on or know I cannot do because of my anxiety but solo travel is not one. I took my first solo trip abroad after my anxiety diagnosis. Although I had to work at it, I want to share the fact that I have anxiety and still travel abroad alone. Social stigma leads us (those with mental health conditions) to believe we are incomplete as people and inadequately manage our own lives. That’s simply not true! With proper preparation and coping we can travel, be brave, meet new people and break out of ruts.

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I cope on-the-go with sunshine, exercise and sleep. Many trips are focused on hiking.

Readers of this blog know I love an urban bike ride. Unfortunately biking can be dangerous and a few years ago I received a concussion after falling off a bike and landing on my head. If I hadn’t been wearing a helmet, I wouldn’t even have the ability to bike again, so I feel lucky being in the place I am. However, after my brain injury instead of responding to stress in a healthy way, I felt confused, panicked and moody.  I was soon diagnosed with an anxiety disorder and since have taken daily medication. Hopefully I will fully heal one day but I have adapted my life to fit my circumstances, although, still push to retain independence and feed my curiosity.

For years I thought about traveling abroad (studying abroad in college was economically out of reach for me) and visiting a Francophone country since taking French classes as a twelve year old. In my 20s I waited for an opportunity to travel on such a trip with friends, family or a partner but things just didn’t work out that way. Eventually it became clear that if I was going to visit France, or any other way away place, I’d need to go alone. After some research I chose to go to Paris; I couldn’t get bored with the art, movie theaters, live music, delicious food and day trip options. It wasn’t cheap (!)  but culturally France is not too different for an American to manage, with entire areas of the city geared toward foreign visitors. The idea of walking all day seeing sights in the sunshine and at my own pace seemed very calming and fun, not stressful at all.

Unfortunately, many people reacted negatively when I first explained my idea to travel across the ocean and stay a week in Paris by myself, and none of it had to do with the challenge of managing anxiety in a new place. I was warned about the dangers for woman traveling alone and some people even mentioned terrorism should keep me out of Europe. Some questioned why someone would want to go somewhere new and foreign by themselves (only a lonely person would do that). After sometimes being a person that skips things out of worry or fear, it felt strange to hear people come up with wild excuses about why I should be afraid to travel and see those comments as laughable and almost anti-social. It made me think about why I should even worry about traveling at all. I would be spending eight days traveling alone, not reinventing the wheel, so I decided to just focus on building the trip of my dreams and enjoying the adventure.

A few people were very encouraging and even shared their own stories of traveling alone. Hearing coworkers, neighbors, and teammates speak fondly about a period of military service, school, volunteer trips and just regular vacations and how they adapted and what they enjoyed about it was really cool. Listening to them made my plan feel more “normal” – if all these people did it before, then I can do it too.

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Paris at dawn and dusk is amazing.

Being concerned about becoming a person that gives up on things after a health setback, I made sure to go into the experience with an open mind and understanding that a smart traveler is flexible and prepared. If I didn’t enjoy the experience I’d never have to do it again. Even though some things did go wrong (my iPhone ended up falling into a sewer, lost forever), I loved the experience and will maintain that it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made – hence my enthusiasm for solo travel and this blog. Now I even make a point of taking winter trips to help stave off the winter blahs for a while and if I’m having a bad day, a future trip gives me something to look forward to. If you are battling moderate depression or anxiety and would like to travel, please do not feel discouraged. With planning it’s possible to have a wonderful, safe and healthy experience. If you are comfortable sharing, I’d like to hear your input on traveling with anxiety or depression.

Thank you for reading!